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Structural Enzymology of Nitrogenase Enzymes

Oliver Einsle, Douglas C. Rees
Chemical reviews 2020 v.120 no.12 pp. 4969-5004
active sites, ammonia, carbon, electrons, enzymology, hydrides, iron, ligands, models, nitrogen, nitrogenase, proteins, protons, reducing agents, spectroscopy
The reduction of dinitrogen to ammonia by nitrogenase reflects a complex choreography involving two component proteins, MgATP and reductant. At center stage of this process resides the active site cofactor, a complex metallocluster organized around a trigonal prismatic arrangement of iron sites surrounding an interstitial carbon. As a consequence of the choreography, electrons and protons are delivered to the active site for transfer to the bound N₂. While the detailed mechanism for the substrate reduction remains enigmatic, recent developments highlight the role of hydrides and the privileged role for two irons of the trigonal prism in the binding of exogenous ligands. Outstanding questions concern the precise nature of the intermediates between N₂ and NH₃, and whether the cofactor undergoes significant rearrangement during turnover; resolution of these issues will require the convergence of biochemistry, structure, spectroscopy, computation, and model chemistry.